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  • Shannon Honl

My First Digital Humanities Conference

Last week was the Fall 2022 Recovery and Community Conference hosted by the Digital Humanities Initiative at the University of Illinois campus in Chicago. As the title suggests, the conference's theme showcased digital humanities as a gateway to social justice. The scholarship presented illuminated underrepresented histories – specifically those of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities. Presenters shared tools for studying these histories and techniques to develop trust and rapport within these communities.

Saturday morning featured a keynote presentation and a workshop with digital humanists doing incredibly productive work in this field. Dr. Roopika Risam, a professor at Dartmouth College, shared experience-based lessons throughout her presentation. The most salient point – which became the unofficial theme of the day – was that (sadly) digital humanities mirrors the “colonialism, racism, and patriarchy” driving the cultural record. What to preserve and how it gets presented in exhibitions is selected through these three limiting lenses. We see this trend in archive collections, museum exhibitions, and documentaries.

Risam rightly called this a missed opportunity and challenged her colleagues to (re)build a more inclusive digital humanities field. To bring this goal to fruition, she encouraged scholars to treat communities as partners and collaborators, not sites of extraction. In addition, she offered sage advice about the importance of “minimal computing” and using only the technology necessary. And last but certainly not least was her advice to plan for the end of a project from the beginning. The knowledge and story are timeless, but the platform may need to change to preserve its accessibility in perpetuity. This was valuable advice for aspiring digital humanists as they venture into their own practices.

While Risam offered guidance for working within digital humanities, Dr. Rebecca Wingo’s workshop was directly relevant to my own work as a nascent public historian. Wingo, a public historian by training and professor at the University of Cincinnati, spoke knowledgeably about how public history intersects with digital humanities. Her comments underlined the importance of shared authority and how to empower people to communicate and preserve their histories.

Wingo presented the Remember Rondo History Harvest as a case study, illustrating the combined methods of public history and digital humanities. Rondo, a black neighborhood of 1950s St. Paul, was slaughtered during the construction of I-94 through their downtown economic corridor. Wingo and her students partnered with Rondo Avenue Inc., embarking on a “harvest” that captured the neighborhood’s history, thereby reaffirming its importance. Wrapping up the case study of Rondo, Wingo walked the audience through a workshop on Omeka – an archival management system she uses for collecting, organizing, and presenting the data acquired from these history harvests. Her tutorial was a primer and inspiration for my future work with this robust platform.

Watch how the history-harvest model brings meaning and life to the everyday stories of Rondo, St. Paul, MN, 2016.

1 opmerking

29 sep. 2022

I enjoyed the topic that you chose for your post. You touched on a lot of good themes that happened that day!

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